Interview: Philip Anselmo of Down
Mon, 05 May 2014 10:47:35
Down’s latest offering Down IV, Pt. II represents everything that a timeless hard rock or heavy metal record should. Lumbering blues-infused riffs abound as well as mind-bending and meandering musical epics marked by moments of entrancing psychedelica and Sabbath-ian bombast. The Louisiana metallic mystics once again summon greatness at every turn, and that’s why Down IV Part II will undoubtedly be revered in the same way NOLA is.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Down mainman Philip Anselmo opens up about the EP, hints at what’s next, and gives us a whole lot more knowledge like he always does!
Down IV Part II embodies what Down was always meant to be. It's a natural continuation of the Black Sabbath inspiration and exploration more than ever. The songs are longer in places and tread dreamier territory. It codifies what you guys have always talked about and really captivates.
Thank you, Rick. At the end of the day, it has to sound like Down. Down was founded straight up because of Black Sabbath and all of the influences therein. To me, having the new infusion of writers is important. Pat's contribution on the second EP was massive. Our new guitar player Bobby Landgraf came in as a contributor right off the bat having watched us for many years and been a fan of the band. To have a great guitar player like that come in and give his spin on what he feels a Down riff should sound like or qualify as, it's an absolute injection of new blood and enthusiasm throughout the entire band. I can't give those guys enough credit for what they brought to this particular record. I'm in full agreement with you. It's a Down record one-hundred percent through and through. It couldn't be mistaken for any other band really at this point in time.
There are some surprises for the Down horde as well. You wouldn't have necessarily heard a song like "Conjure" on Nola.
I agree "Conjure" is unique in its own way. Really, it's Black Slabbath-slash-St. Vitus worship. When put in our hands, there's the slippery way the guys play the riff and execute, and there's definitely also the Ozzy Osbourne influence that permeated throughout my entire vocal performance. It feels natural in a weird way as a progression. It feels very organic, which is strange to say coming from the Black Sabbath and St. Vitus influence point-of-view. Yet, it's still here in 2014. I use the word "influence" very strongly here. Anything we touch is going to end up sounding like Down, but we allowed the songs to flow and just come out the way they came out without too much fuss. We weren't too over conscientious about the length of songs or anything like that. We let the songs flow out of us. I feel very good about it. Like I said, it came from a very natural place and very true place as far as what Down embodies.
Lyrically, "Conjure" has that vivid style you've touted in this band. You can see the song almost as much as you can hear it.
Once again, as far as the lyrics go, to create imagery is always very important especially with Down and the vibe we're trying to get across. "Conjure" is a simple song in theory and meaning, to me at least. You take a simple theory and make it as colorful as possible. It's almost storylike within the lyrics. Then, people can adapt that any which way they want to. It was based off a simple thought and idea. It's a well-known metaphor. Basically, be careful what you bring into your life because it can definitely come up and bite you in the ass. It's simple in theory. Like I said, to make that theory interesting is always the ultimate goal within writing lyrics.
Did you know "Steeple" would be the beginning?
I think the entire band felt that one had that "first song" right off the bat quality to it. I was actually torn between "Steeple" and "We Knew Him Well" because "We Knew Him Well" wallops so immediately. I was torn between the two. I have no qualms about that at all. I'm happy with "Steeple" and how it turned out. Believe it or not, that song was probably the most difficult for me as far as getting happy with my performance, what I wanted to convey, and how I wanted to convey it. It gave me a lot of sleepless nights, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. I think it's a perfect opener for the new EP.
That's another one that you can really see…
If you can see it before your very eyes there, Florino, I must've done the old job [Laughs].
For "Bacchanalia", did Pepper record that ukulele passage in front of you?
The whole time, as these songs were unfolding even pre-dating any sequencing, I always felt like the end of the EP—no matter what the last song would be—needed that type of ending. On the last day of tracking guitars, I said to Pepper, "We need this part". It was a reminder because it was something we talked about plenty. Sure enough, he brought out this smaller guitar. It wasn't really a ukulele [Laughs]. It was a miniature guitar, and I'm not even sure how many strings it had on it. Yes, right then and there on the spot, we gave him as much silence as we could because we were all in the room and pretty excited. We were laughing and talking in the background as he was telling us to "Shut up, please!" He came up with that little part. It was recorded within an hour or so. While he was tracking that, I was generally getting the repeating hook over and over in my head. I tracked my part. Really, that whole piece came out automatically, organically, and fast. Shit, I think it took us two hours to do.
Have you begun thinking of more music already?
First and foremost, the material is for the most part all pretty new. I don't think they're riffs that have been laying around for too terribly long. I know for a fact, Pat's riffs, which are basically "Bacchanalia" and maybe "Conjure" as well, were right off-the-cuff. Most of these songs are very new so to speak and not derived from older riffs. I'll say this. The outro to "Bacchanalia", we're looking at that as, I guess, a bridge to the third installment of the EPs. Right now, I'm guessing there will be some more ambitious songwriting on the third one. Not that we would ever stray too far from what Down does, I don't really think we ever would. Now, "ambitious" is an ambitious word to use when discussing an EP that isn't even written yet [Laughs]. Down is a band that has many dynamics to it whether it be heavy metal or songs like "Stone The Crow" or straight-up acoustic numbers. We can do many things within the genre. As far as attacking the third installment, I like things to be spontaneous and not too terribly thought out and planned completely in advance. Basically, we're going to be taking one EP at a time. The mood we're in will set the tone for the third EP. I'll put it like this. The third EP will be very interesting.
What have you been reading lately?
I'm still on a big H.P. Lovecraft trip. Also, I've just received and have yet to finish it, but it's very interesting—it's called "Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man" by the Marquis de Sade. It's a fantastic read. Just yesterday, I was reading The Doom That Came to Sarnath and Beyond the Wall of Sleep.
What’s next for the Housecore fest?
There's been preliminary talk about certain guests, bands, and films. Really, that's what the entire Housecore fest encapsulates right there. It's still very preliminary. The more I find out, the more you'll find out.
What’s your favorite Down song?